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I am wondering if anything in the following ingredients list would be considered harmful. I understand that these are all FDA approved ingredients, however aspartame is a good example of an ingredient (not in this product) that would be considered a carcinogen yet is approved by the FDA.

Image of Ingredients

This particular protein powder has a strong taste yet has only 2 grams of sugar in it. This makes me wonder what is the sweetener in it. I see that sucralose is in it, but there isn't much.

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    I'm guessing that the strong taste is coming from the Sodium Bicarbonate. That's an interesting ingredient for protein powder. – rrirower Nov 21 '14 at 13:27
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_bicarbonate#In_sports has some mention of it being used as an athletic enhancer, although that's also where they point out possible toxicity... – Sean Duggan Nov 21 '14 at 16:02
  • Baking soda is used all the time so are the levels of sodium bicarbonate questionable here or is it the simple fact that this can cause long term harm when digested so often? I mean every ingredient out there is toxic to some extent, is sodium bicarbonate going to cause harm no matter what amount its in? Just trying to understand why this would be an 'interesting' ingredient. : ) – dcpc Nov 22 '14 at 1:57
  • Questions about general health and nutrition when not directly concerning exercise/fitness are off-topic for this site. – G__ Nov 23 '14 at 23:51
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Actually, Aspartame has a pretty clear bill of health. There were some early studies which suggested that megadoses, the equivalent of slamming 40-50 diet sodas every day, might lead to a slight increase in cancer rates, but better studies have eliminated confounding factors and found that the risk is less than that of using natural sugars in food due to the lower amounts.

Looking at the list of ingredients, the only item which might be of potential risk is their source of calcium, which is not listed. Routine calcium supplementation has been associated with increased risk of heart attacks, something not observed in normal dietary consumption. I have not seen any further study of the issue, although my suspicion is that it may have more to do with many of the supplement companies using cheaper sources of calcium such as ground cuttlefish or limestone.

Another possibility is the Sodium Bicarbonate pointed out by rrirower above. Based on Wikipedia, it is occasionally called out as an athletic enhancer, but there are potential issues of toxicity at higher dosages.

All in all, you should be fine consuming this powder unless you're trying to turn it into your only foodstuff. All things in moderation, after all.

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  • Re: artificial sweeteners: not necessarily. "Consumption of diet soda at least daily was associated with significantly greater risks of select incident metabolic syndrome components and type 2 diabetes." (source) and "These findings may provide some insight into the link between diet soda consumption and obesity." (source) – Daniel Nov 21 '14 at 13:59
  • @Daniel: Ah. Good point there. I'll admit that I have the same doubts as the researchers as to whether this is a matter of "diet soda contributes to an increased risk" or "diet soda is associated with behaviors that contribute to an increased risk". As they note in their paper, people who are overweight or consuming too much sugar are often the people most likely to try to switch to diet sodas. – Sean Duggan Nov 21 '14 at 14:35
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    I'd say the jury is still out on the actual repercussions of artificial sweetener intake. The second paper points strongly to impairment of energy regulation. The fact that reward processing is altered might mean other hormonal responses are altered as well, perhaps affecting non-exercise activity thermogenesis or general system entropy -- meaning people would get fat more easily. If the brain's reward system thinks artificial sweeteners represent the maximum dietary reward (more so than sugar -- as the paper states "...greater activation to sweet taste..."), what are the implications? – Daniel Nov 21 '14 at 15:52
  • {nods} It would help if they had more papers exploring the differences between the diet soda consumption and regular soda consumption. Anecdotally, the people I know who insist on diet drinks also consume a 2-liter at a time because there's no calories. I think that might be messing things up more than just consumption of aspartame. :) – Sean Duggan Nov 21 '14 at 15:54
  • I'd agree -- and I don't think it's a huge deal in this case. But if the OP is concerned, there are alternatives (such as Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey [no affiliation]) that contain no artificial sweeteners. – Daniel Nov 21 '14 at 15:58
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There are two artificial sweeteners in this product: sucralose, and acesulfame potassium (also known as Ace-K). The purpose of using two sweeteners is to get a better sugar-like taste profile than with a single sweetener alone.

You can read the relevant Wikipedia articles on these substances, but suffice it to say that neither one is really all that good to consume frequently, even if they are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) or have agency/governmental approval. We can talk about extensive LD50 animal studies, or PK studies in humans, but at the end of the day, nothing is completely safe--toxicity is a measure of exposure over time, and an excess of anything is bad no matter what it is you're putting in your body.

In light of this, the most important thing if you want to use supplements in a healthy way is to do it in moderation. As difficult as it might be to obtain your nutrition through whole foods, supplementation is precisely that--supplementing your normal diet, not substituting for it. It's not about increasing convenience by allowing you to cut back on eating as much of your dietary needs as you possibly can.

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